Archive for the 'Music' Category

Monday Music Covers: Chris Brown is Insecure

Rating: 0 /5

Anyone that knows me, knows I despise Chris Brown. It really bothers me when people say that he hit Rihanna, when he really beat her to a pulp. In an interview with Mtv Rihanna described Chris Brown as “insecure” and “controlling”. You can definitely see those characteristics, and many others including narcissism and a desire for respect, in how he chose to represent himself through his album cover for ‘F.A.M.E.’. The deliberately ambiguous title supposedly stands for both Fans Are My Everything or Forgiving All My Enemies.

The cover is made to look like a hand painted mural, with Chris Brown’s face repeated over 30 times. The spray-paint-style logo looks so cheesy and the drips off the F.A.M.E. looks more like a Halloween font, than anything a street artist would do. The clown motif is a direct lift from Banksy. In fact, the whole cover has a Banksy rip-off about it.

The colours are definitely lifted from hip hop covers from the 1990s, such as  Ghostface Killah’s ‘Ironman’. This shows he is trying to affiliate himself with the hip hop world, and less with the pop world. Chris Brown is a manufactured pop star, with his only quality linking him to the hip hop world being his objectification and disrespect for woman. His first video for “Run It” shows his dancing around some school sports hall, not dissimilar to Justin Bieber. He is clearly insecure about this. Chris, you’ll never have the passion of Tribe Called Quest or intelligence of Jay Z. Please just quit now.

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The Music and Art Live the On: Gerard Smith’s Tragic Death

I was very saddened this morning to learn of Gerard Smith’s death. He was only 34. Smith was the bassist for the band TV on the Radio and an incredibly gifted musician.

It’s strange how the news changed the context of the cover for me and how poignant, lonely and empty the imagery appears now… The album art’s beauty speaks for itself. Sadly, medical science could not save Gerard, but his music and this artwork will live on as a testament to his life and talent.

Mid-week Music Review: Jessie Who?

Rating: *** / 5

After being in NYC for some long, I’m very much out of the loop with regards to the UK and Irish charts. Though, to be honest, I’d sometimes be out of the loop even when I was at home. Yesterday I saw that Jessie J’s album “Who You Are” and had no idea about it. But of course, now I have seen her popping up all over the Internet. So before I get too acquainted with her music, I better do my cover review..

Music is certainly cyclical, and moderately-edgy female pop stars are certainly the current favourite.  The gothic clothes, blunt haircut and dark lips seem to be trying to suggest an independent, hard-edged gal.  But she’s also incredibly airbrushed and has her mouth open in a suggestive manner so clearly she’s also trying to be a sexual sexual. The gold bling looks like she’s trying to be a bit hip-hop. She basically looks like she’s trying to be everything, and often the problem with that is you begin to something like nothing new.

I detest the script face used for the album title. (You may not have noticed it since it blends into her skin)..

Albums as Book Covers

Check out What if Your Favourite Alnum was a Book on motherjones.com.
This must have been a fun project to work on. I wonder will they do the reverse..

Dissecting the Magazine Cover: Rihanna on Vogue, March 2011

On this month’s cover of Vogue, posing in an embellished lace floral Chanel dress, Rihanna looks like a confident symbol of rebirth. The decision to dye her hair a poppy-red is surely no accident, representing a post-war period in her life, where the battleground has cleared and flowers have been allowed to flourish. Rihanna’s journey after a traumatic domestic abuse attack has played out through her fashion choices at a series of public stages including music videos, award show appearances, and magazine covers.

Floral motifs were present at the beginning of Rihanna’s career, where her fashion choices echoed her Barbadian heritage, giving her a genuine distinction from pop and R’n’B singers already on the market. In her first music video ‘Pon De Replay’ she sports a gold bikini top, a floral patterned dress, large gold hoop earrings and numerous chunky bangles. These Caribbean accents were Americanized by pairing them with casual baggy jeans and Converse sneakers to give her a more relatable look for her target audience. This early public image was certainly wholesome, but had less of the exaggerated girl-next-door quality thrust upon other pop stars like Britney Spears, or what I like to call the “Like a virgin (like we’re all stupid!)” persona.

As her career progressed, Rihanna’s style choices became more unpredictable, modeling an ever-changing parade of fashion choices and shorter haircuts. This new, daring fashion style was a considered, intelligent decision to distinguish herself. Rihanna worked closely with producer Jay Z, and therefore suffered from numerous accusations of simply being a clone of Jay Z’s wife Beyoncé.

In the ‘Disturbia’ music video , she had more gothic fashion style, wearing dark colors, chocker necklaces and mesh top barbed wire motifs. This “edgier” phase in a pop star’s lifecycle usually occurs two years or two albums, whichever happens to come first, into a pop singer’s career. This new fashion persona is usually signaled by the release of an edgy or artistic music video. Britney Spears, exhibited a more gothic look in the ‘Stronger’ video where she sang the infamous line “My loneliness ain’t killing me no more”, a reference to her first single. Christina Aguilera’s ‘Fighter’ was a kind of experimental art video with a convoluted butterfly theme. Whether true of not, these videos gives the impression of a pop star’s increased creative freedom or adult status, and a familiar cry from every entertainment magazine heralds, “[insert pop starlet here] is all grown-up!”

Next along the pop star lifecycle trajectory is an extremely provocative phase which is often the result of a slump in sales or a massive rebellion against their constructed virginal image. Throughout her career Rihanna wore her sexuality on her sleeve – or rather on her hips – using provocative, tight-fitted clothes to accentuate her curves. Animal prints were a reoccurring motif alluding to an animal and instinctive sexual nature. While many mothers of teenage fans may not approve of this highly sexual demeanor, it is certainly a more honest, if not healthier, attitude towards sex. There was never any doubt that Rihanna and her then-boyfriend Chris Brown were having a sexual relationship, refusing to do the usual “oh we’re just good friends” routine followed by a disingenuous giggle.

The next dramatic change in Rihanna’s fashion sense was brought on by tragic event, when she was viciously attacked by Chris Brown. The night of the attack she was wearing a flowing, pastel watercolor Gucci gown; a feminine style that almost completely disappeared in the years following the attack.

Although Rihanna refused to speak publicly about the incident, she spoke through her fashion choices, shifting to an androgynous but still highly sexualized look, alternating between re-appropriated masculine suits and army styles. Rihanna used fashion to cope, building a protective wall of harsher materials including leather, spikes and structural material. Large shoulder pads were her assertion of power during a difficult time, much like how women in the workforce chose them during the 1990s and Reagan-era.

Hairstyles and tattoos also played a huge part in her new look. She shaved the side of her hair, a poignant symbol of entering the army and now possesses no less than thirteen tattoos, including one on her chest “Never a failure, always a lesson” backwards so that she can read it in the mirror.

But Rihanna’s cries through her fashion choices and lyrics, “I, I, I, I’m so hard. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, I’m so hard. So hard, So hard, So hard, So hard.” are reminiscent of “the lady doth protest too much. ”, an over compensation indicating that perhaps she was struggling more than she would allow herself to admit in public. Her music videos for ‘Russian Roulette’ and ‘Hard’ were flooded with war imagery and she wore aggressive artifacts revealing top made of bullets, shields and army jackets. There is also a knowingness to her fashion choices; her army helmet is shaped with Mickey Mouse ears possibly making statements about pop star’s constructed identity.

It’s important to note that a pop star can often have little power over what they wear, so there is always the concern that these public personas could be forced upon Rihanna. But I’ll finish with her own words about her personality, and hope for her sake that it isn’t purely constructed by other people: “Brilliant, resilient, fan mail from 27 million”.

Christina Perri: Avril Lavigne for the Twilight Generation

Rating: * /5

I have managed not to hear any of Christina Perri’s music, but I have heard Avril Lavigne and Paramore so I figure if imagine playing both of them simultaneously, I could get quite close.

She is pictured here holding with jar of blood, or rather cool-aid, lending a new meaning to drinking their own cool aid since teens and pre-teens seem to be lapping it up as her album is now #18 in the Billboard chart. There’s not much to analysis here, except for the singer’s appearance and clothing choice, but I’m sure that’s intentional.. And sure why wouldn’t just focus on her image? Look at her pretty convincing punk hairstyle with its casual blonde streak. She clearly knows how to rock.

The typeface choice is a slightly distorted version of courier. Courier has become common among designer attempting to have a “punk” or “alternative” aesthetic, since it looks the most like a typewriter, an now relatively unknown archaic object used by early zine writers. The font itself has also been worn to create the illusion of D.I.Y. album, one that these were all individually handcrafted by friends and fans. (They most certainly were not.)

If the music is half as recycled as the album’s aesthetic, and I’m guessing it is, then this really isn’t worth a listen.

The Walkman Lisbon LP

Rating: ***/5

In a response to the glossy and photoshopped world of the music industry, many bands are using analogue photographic techniques: polaroid, holga and diana cameras. This handmade, textural quality may also be to encourage people to buy the real thing, not just the download. One example I came across is the Walkman ‘Lisbon’ LP.

I am a fan of Holga and Diana cameras and the effects that they can give, but it is becoming so over used that I’m growing tired of it. The over-exposed double image photograph doesn’t give that much away about the music style since it looks so much like a mash up of a lot of other albums released that year – Arcade Fire, Vampire Weekend and Twin Shadow. I’m guessing they must be an indie band and would also bet that at least one member is from/living in Brooklyn. I suspect the music is good, but nothing too different from what else came out last year.

The band name ‘The Walkman’ also refers to the analogue and instantly reminds me of the 1990s. Unsurprisingly, I stumbled across this in Urban Outfitter’s music section, which carry an array of objects evoking 90s nostalgia such as cartoon T-shirts, lego keyrings and mp3 players disguised as a walkman.